Lee Pitts: Papered People
There’s a distinct difference between commercial cattlemen and those who raise registered cattle. The biggest contrast is purebred people dress differently and use after shave. Go to a fancy hotel at the same time purebred breeders are holding their annual convention and you won’t know if you’re at a Fortune 500 shareholders meeting, a banker’s confab, a slot tournament or a gambler’s anonymous retreat. If you go to a cowboy convention you’ll know it immediately when you’re locked up in a hotel elevator and detect a musty, cowy smell.
Purebred breeders are less apt to wear cowboy hats. Either they have enough hair to go hatless or they wear a ball cap with the name of a famous bull you never heard of sewn on it. While some breeders can look good in a cowboy hat you rarely see a Stetson in photos of the Angus Board of Directors. I can only assume they have a dress code. Purebred breeders can also be recognized by their feet. Often they wear wingtips, soft shoes or footwear more often seen on a yacht. Purebred sale managers especially seem to eschew cowboy hats and boots.
Registered breeders are more into technology and keep records on their cell phones, whereas a commercial cattlemen keeps his info in a tally book, on a market card or a barn door. Papered people write with a pen, regular ranchers with a pencil. Registered breeders LOVE data and use a spreadsheet to find their best cattle. Regular ranchers can tell just by looking. Purebred people often look like they’re talking to themselves but they’re just talking to someone called Bluetooth. (I don’t know who this Bluetooth person is.) Purebred cattlemen usually tweet, have the newest I phone with an irritating ring tone, and a Facebook page. Commercial cattlemen have an old flip phone that doesn’t work WELL because it’s been dropped down one too many times.
Purebred people drive newer Yukons, Tahoes or Expeditions that they write off and use for showing guests their herd. Regular ranchers more often drive a Dodge Ram, Chevy 1500 or F 250. The year of their truck coincides with the last good market. Purebred breeders drive golf carts while unregistered ranchers drive ATV’s and Quarter Horses. A rope dangles from their saddle. If a purebred breeder catches his hired-hand roping the registered stock he’ll soon be unemployed.
Registered cattle travel in aluminum trailers with a top, while paperless cows ride in steel trailers the color of rust. Registered cattle are run through a hydraulic chute several times a year that is under a roof. Commercial cattle are afforded no such luxury. Come branding time paperless cattle are double hocked and drug to a fire. A registered man wouldn’t think of treating his precious calves with such disrespect. In the tack room on a registered ranch you’ll find show sticks, semen tanks and halters for breaking cattle, but on a commercial ranch the only halters are for horses.
Here’s a useful tip: ear tags can be used to sort purebreds from more common cattle. The purebreds will always have at least two ear tags, usually three, with one containing a computer chip. If commercial cattle have an ear tag it was probably once used to deter flies but is long past its expiration date. Commercial cattlemen sell their cattle by the pound at the sale barn or on the video while purebred breeders have two sales a year: a bull sale and a separate female sale where they sell embryos, semen and one eighth interest in donor cows. The only time an unregistered animal is divided up into fractions is when the hired hand is given half-a-beef in lieu of salary.
Purebred breeders usually have a lucrative other business, are more apt to pick up a check at a restaurant and can talk for hours about one thing; their cattle. They send their kids to Stanford or Texas A & M, while commercial ranch kids go to Sul Ross, TCU or Montana State. At a purebred outfit there’s a big sign at the ranch entrance while the only guests welcome on a commercial ranch already know how to get there. Regular ranchers don’t talk much but if they do say anything it’s about one of two things: their grass or how empty their range gauge is.